How To Deal with A Demanding Cat

Cats have a reputation as low-maintenance pets. This means that some owners are surprised at how needy and demanding felines can be at times. All cats have unique personalities. Some cats may be wholly independent and confident, but others can be clingy and insecure.

Cats become clingy and vocal for a range of reasons. The cat may have chronic anxiety or feel insecure due to a lack of routine. Ensure your cat is not being bullied by another pet, in or out of the home. If keeping your cat safe and establishing a routine does not help, sickness may be to blame. An unwell cat can become frightened and dependent.

Be certain that the cat is being needy and not dominant. Some felines demand attention 24/7 to show who is in charge. If your cat’s issue is based on insecurity, identify the cause so that action can be taken.

How Much Attention Does a Cat Need?

Cats all have their own personalities. Do not believe the unhelpful myth that all cats are antisocial loners. If you adopt a cat expecting a pet that can be ignored, you’ll face a shock. All cats need some level of interaction.

Judging how much attention to shower your cat with can be a challenge. Cats typically like human interaction to be on their terms. This means that you’ll need to learn your cat’s body language and vocal cues. This will reveal if your cat wants your consideration or not.

If you bother your cat when it wants to be left alone, it will grow frustrated. This will invariably result in bites or scratches. Cats try to communicate in their own way. If you miss these cues, felines feel justified in resorting to physical admonishment.

Do not simply leave your cat to its own affairs, though. Cats need to forge a bond with their owners. You are more than just a facilities manager. If you come to an understanding with your cat, you’ll enjoy a happy and successful relationship.

As discussed, all cats are individuals with varying needs when it comes to attention. Many cats are happy with two designated play and petting sessions per day. All the same, there are certain factors that will impact how much attention a cat requires.


There is no denying that some cat breeds are more social than others. Any of the following cats will likely need more one-on-one time than others. These are among the most playful and friendly breeds:

  • Ragdoll
  • Siamese
  • Persian and Exotic Shorthair
  • Sphynx
  • Maine Coon

Simply identifying a cat’s breed is not enough, though. Some of these felines may actually be surprisingly cantankerous. Equally, breeds with a reputation for independence, such as the American Shorthair, can be surprisingly clingy.

Understanding the difference between breeds will help you make a decision, though. If you bring one of the cats above into your home, know what you are in for. You’re likely to need to provide more attention than you may expect.

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How strongly you are bonded with your cat will impact how much attention it needs. As explained by Current Biology, cats with secure attachment to owners need less attention. This is because the cat trusts you implicitly. It understands you will meet its needs.

It’s simple to tell if your cat has a secure or insecure attachment. Watch how your cat behaves when you return home from a period of absence. A cat with a secure attachment will briefly acknowledge you, then get back to what it was doing.

In some respects, this may feel like the cat is ignoring you. This is not quite true. The cat just has no reason to doubt your bond. It knows that you’ll still be around later. For now, it can concentrate on something else. It will come to see you for attention when it’s ready.

A cat with an insecure attachment is likelier to make a huge fuss. Such a cat will follow you around, insist on sitting with you, and demand petting. On paper, this is flattering. Be mindful, though. It can suggest the cat does not trust you to be around when needed.

Age and Energy Levels

As cats grow older, they automatically start to slow down. Senior cats are considerably less energetic than kittens. They prefer to spend most of their day in a deep sleep. In such a scenario, the cat does not wish to be disturbed.

Again, this does not mean that older cats can be left to their own devices. As cats age, their bodies start to show increasing signs of wear and tear. Your cat may be arthritic, for example, which will be uncomfortable. Offer comfort and pain relief where possible.

When a cat is older, a good rule of thumb is to provide attention when it is asked for. Senior cats can be grumpy and cantankerous, so avoid getting in their face. Equally, though, provide attention when requested – within reason. This reassures a cat that you will always care for it.


How your cat spends its days will dictate how much attention it needs. Some cats build their day around human interaction. Others are far happier amusing themselves.

Take cats with high hunting drives as an example. These felines will be content to stalk birds or rodents wherever possible. If frustrated by a lack of options, though, these cats will expect play. Toys can stimulate the same hunting instincts as live prey.

The same applies to cats that spend hours staring out of the window. After a while, the cat will want to hunt. It can only watch for so long without growing frustrated. In this instance, the cat needs attention. Ignoring it will only see frustration grow.

The good news is, these cats are otherwise easily occupied of their own accord. More demanding are cats that are only interested in playing with humans, or petting. You will need to meet these expectations or train your cat to entertain itself.

Signs of a Demanding Cat

All cats look for attention from time to time. The cat will usually begin this request politely, gradually growing more agitated if ignored. Signs that your cat is looking for attention include:

  • Circling around your feet
  • Rubbing against you
  • Sitting on items that you are using, such as a computer or newspaper
  • Meowing

If attention is not provided, or your cat is unsettled, it can become demanding and clingy. This can rapidly become a problem that will likely impact your bond. It should be recognized and managed as a matter of urgency. Examples of needy cat behavior include:

  • Never leaving your side
  • Constantly verbalizing, often at high volume
  • Growing upset if separated from you by a closed door
  • Refusing food unless you hand-feed it
  • Unwelcome, destructive behaviors for attention (i.e. knocking things over or inappropriate elimination)

Do not mistake affection for neediness. Your cat may simply be expressing love and a desire to spend time with you. This does not always come naturally to a cat. You should embrace any positive body language and return them in kind. Acts of devotion from cats include:

  • Licking
  • Slowly blinking the eyes (also known as a, “cat kiss”)
  • Leaving gifts (including unwanted ones, such as dead birds or rodents)
  • Gentle head butting, also known as bunting

If these habits do not grow too excessive, they are nothing to worry about. A cat will only express love if it feels comfortable. If a cat refuses to leave your side, it’s likelier to be demonstrating insecurity than affection.

Why is My Cat So Needy and Vocal?

If your cat has suddenly become clingy, pay attention. Something is clearly not right in your cat’s life. Any sudden change in feline behavior merits investigation. The problem may stem from physical health or lifestyle issues.

Some cats are needy by nature. If your cat has always been joined at your hip, try to assess why this could be. Some cats are demanding at particular times of day, while others never cease their clinginess.

Why is My Cat So Needy in the Morning?

Some cats are particularly demanding when you first wake up. You may find your cat nose-to-nose with you when you open your eyes in the morning. This suggests that the cat has been watching you sleep.

In reality, the cat has likely just been waiting for you to wake up. There are many reasons why cats can be needy at this hour, though. The likeliest is that the cat is just hungry. Many cats expect breakfast in the morning. Combat this by leaving out kibble overnight.

The cat may be bored. Cats enjoy patrolling at night, especially outside. The streets are typically quieter, which makes hunting easier. If the cat was locked inside, it may feel stifled. The cat has been waiting for you to get up and provide entertainment.

Many cats also look out of the window at night. In doing so, your cat may have been frightened. It could have seen, heard, or smelled something that provoked anxiety. It is now seeking comfort from you in the warm light of day.

Many cats are clingy in the morning. In some respects, this is a compliment. Your cat has been away from you for several hours. It now wants to interact. If the problem does not extend to the rest of the day, don’t worry too much. Enjoy your feline wake-up call.

My Cat Only Wants Attention at Night

A cat that is needy after dark is more concerning. The biggest issue is obviously one of frustration for you. A cat that verbalizes and claws after dark will disturb your sleep. This can leave you feeling resentful toward your cat.

If your cat is growing older, be mindful of the risk of cognitive decline. Felines aged fifteen or over can start to become senile. Clinginess and reversed sleep-waking cycles are key symptoms of this issue. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice also recommends looking out for the following behaviors:

  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Changes in interactive behavior, i.e. not recognizing owners
  • General disorientation in movement
  • Staring into space and at walls for seemingly no reason

If you feel that your cat is experiencing cognitive deficiency, seek professional advice. There is no cure for feline cognitive decline.  The progress of the problem can be slowed with medication and lifestyle changes, though.

It’s also possible that your cat is anxious in the dark. Cats like to guard territory by looking out of the window after dark. If the cat saw a predator, it will understandably be frightened. It will seek protection from you.

The best way to manage nocturnal neediness is through a routine. Play with your cat late in the evening, then feed and groom it. This will leave the cat ready for a long slumber. The later this is, the likelier the cat will sleep all night and leave you alone.

My Cat is Needy all the Time

A cat that is constantly clinging to you can create a challenging dynamic. This will need to be managed and resolved. Learn why your cat is so needy through observation and the process of elimination.

Expectation and Experience

At the risk of passing the buck, is your cat really being clingy? Or is it just reacting to your own behavior? Cats are natural mimics and often become like their owners. If you constantly demand your cat’s attention, the cat will do the same.

This may not be your fault. If you were sick or injured, your cat may have provided comfort. Cats grow used to spending their every waking moment with humans. If the was a cat’s routine for a prolonged period, it can be hard to readjust.

You will need to gradually break your co-dependence with your cat. Start spending more time apart and shower it with less focus. The cat will initially be confused by this, so training will be required. You’ll both benefit in the long term, though.


Anxiety is a common explanation for a cat to grow clingy. Cats are easily upset and stressed. Some cats are nervous by nature, seemingly afraid of everything around them. These cats will not leave your side.

You need to observe your cat and learn its common stress triggers. These can be many and varied, unique to each cat. Common examples are loud noises, changes to routine or home residents, house moves, and uncomfortable surroundings.

Remove stress triggers from your cat’s life. You could also apply some calming scents to the home. Feliway is widely considered to be impactful for nervous cats. If this does not help, speak to a professional. Your cat may need anti-anxiety medication.


Cats can grow insecure, especially if they do not share a strong bond with an owner. Cats may be independent, but they rely on humans. A cat’s paws cannot operate a tin opener or clean a litter tray. Routine is the only way to resolve this.

Cats need routine to be happy. Felines look to know when they’ll be fed and played with. In addition, cats like to know when you’ll be home or out. Cats cannot tell the time in the conventional sense, but they have a reliable body clock.

A cat that lacks routine will grow insecure and clingy. It will not know where and when its next meal is coming from. Equally, the cat will fear being left alone or abandoned at a moment’s notice. This leads to separation anxiety.

As explained by the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, eliminating on the bed is a classic sign of separation anxiety in felines. You need to work with your cat, building its trust and confidence in you. The cat needs to learn that you aren’t going anywhere.


If you have multiple cats in your home, a clingy cat may be bullied. All feline pairs and groups fall into a natural dominant-submissive dynamic. Some dominant cats can take this too far, though.

If a cat is being bullied, it may turn to you for protection. The cat may be pushed away from the food bowl when it goes to eat. Sometimes, a submissive cat is attacked needlessly by another feline. This cannot be allowed to continue. It will take its toll on the victimized cat.

Separate the cats and work on addressing the dominant cat’s behavior. Help out your bullied cat, but do not enable needy behavior. If you give a cat a reason to be afraid, it will grow increasingly anxious.

Poor Health

Poorly cats often keep themselves to themselves. The cat will not want you to know that it is unwell. Sometimes, though, serious illness can make a cat clingy. The cat is frightened about what is happening and seeks reassurance.

Feline illness comes in many forms, especially in senior cats. Attend regular veterinary check-ups to give your cat a clean bill of health. It’s always better to identify problems and rectify them, as early as possible.

Past Trauma

If you adopt a cat from a shelter, learn what you can about its history. Cats that experience trauma often remembers it. This can make a cat needy with a new owner.

Mistreatment is a common reason for feline trauma. The cat may be sticking to you like glue because it trusts you. Other humans may make the cat nervous. It does not feel safe around anybody but you.

Abandonment can also leave a cat with issues. This may have been a previous owner, or even you. If you went on holiday for a week, for example, the cat may have been frightened. It was worried that you may not return.

Unsuitable Living Arrangements

Your cat may be clingy as something is not right in its environment. Felines can be particular. They like things a set way. If this is not the case, it can cause the cat distress.

Take temperature as an example. Cats like to run a body temperature of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This means an ambient temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Any higher or lower and the cat may grow upset. It will cling to you for comfort.

Unsanitary living conditions can also leave a cat feeling out of sorts. Ensure the cat’s litter tray is clean. If not, rectifying this may fix the cat’s clinginess.


Ensure that you are not mistaking neediness for attempted dominance. In multi-cat colonies, one feline will adopt a dominant status. A lone cat may try to do the same to you. Examples of dominant behavior toward owners from cats include:

  • Following you around and blocking your path when you try to leave a room
  • Making itself look as large as possible in your presence
  • Harassing you at mealtimes, trying to eat your food
  • Unprovoked acts of aggression
  • Quickly growing antagonistic if demands are not immediately met

You may find a cat’s attempts at domination amusing, but it’s no laughing matter. A cat with designs on dominance can grow increasingly aggressive and problematic.

How to Train a Demanding Cat

The first step in training a demanding cat is to be strong. Lavishing your cat with attention whenever it asks creates a rod for your own back. You may feel that you’ll do anything for a quiet life. You’re not helping yourself in the long term, though.

Retraining a demanding cat requires a delicate balancing act. Your cat needs to feel heard and understood or it will continue to yowl and cling. At the same time, teach your cat there are better ways to go about seeking attention.

If your cat is acting inappropriately, wait it out. Maintain a poker face and do not react. The moment your cat stops making noise or behaving badly, praise it. Teach the cat that quiet patience yields rewards.

From here, you can start working on the training. Most of these techniques revolve around prevention as much as a cure. This is the most impactful way to get through to a demanding cat. You need to create a new normal.

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Establish a Routine

Routine is the key to managing all unwelcome cat behavior. If your cat knows what to expect, it will be considerably calmer. The cat knows that you will always meet its needs. This will make it less clingy and demanding. Instead, the cat will display more patience.

It can take a while to gain a cat’s trust, especially if the routine has previously been erratic. You’ll need to be strong-willed Feed, play with and pet your cat at set times every day. Do not engage at other times. The cat will eventually acknowledge this schedule.

Use Distraction Techniques

Teach your cat to entertain itself. Fill a spare room or assigned territory with feline stimulation. This could include toys, puzzles, and scratching posts. As per the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, cat-specific music is also soothing.

When the cat is demanding attention, calmly position it in this room. Felines learn quickly. Your cat will start to connect this territory with attention-seeking. It will cease the behavior as a result and instead look for alternative amusement.

If the cat stays put and uses what you have provided, reward it. This could take the form of treats or interaction. This teaches the cat that attention is available, but time alone can also be fun.

Establish Boundaries

You will need to teach your cat the value of compromise. Boundaries are essential to this. Do not become strict with your cat overnight but stop letting it do what it wants.

Take a cat that always wants to sit on your lap. Pet the cat for five minutes, if it is a scheduled petting time. After this, place the cat in a bed or basket close by. The cat can remain close to you, but not monopolize your time.

The same applies to closed doors. You may need to start shutting your cat out of the bedroom at night, for example. This will result in scratching and verbalizing at first. You must stay strong. This is the toughest part of the training. Prepare for a few sleepless nights.

Ignore Bad Behavior

A good point bears repeating. You must remember to ignore and disregard unwanted behavior in a cat. Providing a reaction will achieve nothing. To a needy cat, any attention is good attention – even being told off.

If your cat knocks a glass off the table, calmly and efficiently clean up the mess. If your cat eliminates outside the litter box, deal with the stain. Do not scold your cat, but obviously do not praise it. The cat will grow bored if your reaction does not involve acknowledgment.

You cannot ignore bad behavior forever. If these training techniques do not help, something else is amiss. You’ll need the help of a vet or an animal behaviorist. In most cases, though, your cat will learn that neediness does not equate to results.

A demanding cat can be difficult to live with. Feeling clingy is no fun for the cat either. It is advisable to learn what is causing this neediness and address the source. This way, you can build a more harmonious bond with your cat.

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Richard Parker

I'm Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I'm experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I'm a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

2 thoughts on “How To Deal with A Demanding Cat”

  1. “Many cats expect breakfast in the morning. Combat this by leaving out kibble overnight.” This is a BIG NO-NO.” Cats only need fed 2-3 times a day. I made the mistake of free-feeding my cat, who’s a former stray. She became way too active at night. I later learned that, before I had bought all necessary cat food, my twice-daily feedings were most optimal. I readjusted her meal plan, and she finally returned to sleeping normally.

    See, kibble is high in carbs, and cats have no genuine need for many carbs. Too much can upset their nutritional balance. I switched to midday kibble via puzzle ball feeder, and sometimes clicker train her for 20 minutes via kibble before finishing with the puzzle ball.

    I learned that her last zoomies for the night, which will become loud “I’m BORED” meowing can be fixed by highly involved playtime. Granted she’s still a junior cat, but most vet-written blogs will encourage a meal/play routine, making the last play no later than 11pm. While harness training her, I’ve found greater success in her feeling enriched by literally getting her outside to touch grass. Or overgrown weeds. Touching grass, great for both human and cat, lol.

  2. I should note that my mention of cats & carbs comes from reading up on vets who’ve written on cat nutrition. When a stray adopts you, you become an avid reader.


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